Lovecraft on Happy Pills
Sometimes I wonder if my tastes are too mainstream, that if something finally has come to my attention and I find that I like it, it’s probably jumped the shark. Well, there’s nothing wrong with liking mainstream stuff although if you just look around online, it seems as if a lot of things are described, at best, as pedestrian. But then when you mention this stuff to people in Real Life, they don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Example: steampunk. This aesthetic movement was written up in mainstream media like the New York Times not too long ago, but when I mention this to people–it’s all new to them.
Lovecraft is another of those things which people in Real Life don’t have any clue about. “Come on, you must have at least heard about Cthulhu!” Blank stares. This makes me feel too geeky to be interacting with normal people, yet not geeky enough for the hardcore crowd. It sucks to be in the middle–a dilettante, a dabbler. No respect as an expert and no excuse as an ignorant.
It’s with this viewpoint that I watched the first three episodes in the anime series xxxHolic: Kei. I really liked the first series of xxxHolic–deliciously creepy and silly self-contained episodes about addictions, obsessions, compulsions, and their consequences all illustrated in a twiggy, serpentine style. This is all as a casual viewer. I’m sure that stuff was lost in the translation, references to other anime flew over my head, explanations in the manga ignored, and cultural subtleties were as transparent as mud. Despite my obtuseness, I do realize that none of this stands completely alone. While Kei may very well be enjoyed by itself, I think the viewer would better appreciate it with the first series already under his belt.
In the three episode arc (“Spiderweb”, “Left Eye”, “Half”), two of the main characters get caught up in the consequences of grudges and a Hammurabi-esque notion of justice. But is it really about the ones bearing grudges who have a worse view of things than the ones who did the damage, or something else entirely? The theme that really intrigued me was that of sacrifice. What does it mean for the person who sacrifices? More importantly, what does it mean for the person who is sacrificed for? Although it might seem noble at first glance, will a sacrifice in the long run be worthless?
Overall, I thought this was a really good start to the second series. It was more character oriented rather than horror–I can only compare my reaction after watching the episodes to when I finish reading “The Gift of the Magi”, bittersweet but fitting. That said, I’m still mulling over the bizarro Alice in Wonderland sequence. I could ascribe meaning to it. Or should I brush it off as just another silly interlude?